’s 2013 holiday gift guide

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Apple By Sal Cangeloso Nov. 28, 2013 10:00 am
Welcome to’s Holiday Gift Guide for 2013. We’re trying something new this year, so stick with us and let’s see how it goes. Rather than try to figure out the “best gifts for him” or “10 great gifts for your significant other who hates tech” we’re put together a big list of awesome things. Each of these things is approved by at least one member of the staff and we think you and your loved ones (or, say, your co-workers) will really like it.
Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities – Sal
This book is a roundup of over 1500 tool reviews with incredibly useful tips and how-tos covering just about everything you can imagine. On one page there will be a recommendation for a great truck (Toyota pickup) on another they’ll be tips on learning how to swim properly (it’s all about the stroke length). This is, without a doubt, my favorite book to come out in 2013.
Chromecast – Sal and Russ
I’ll just get this out of the way up front. The Chromecast is a great purchase — it’s easy to use, simple to setup, and Google has been making it better each week. If you use Netflix or Hulu or Pandora, this is a no-brainer.
Victorinox 8-inch chef’s knife – Sal
I’m about the 10,000th person to recommend the Victorinox, but it really is that good. This knife is as well built as you need any cutting tool to be, is easy to sharpen, holds an edge, and it’s cheap enough that you can buy two or three and always have a great knife handy when you’re in the kitchen. I’ve had mine for years now and not only is it my go-to cutting instrument over all the Wusthofs and Henkels we’ve accumulated, it’s cheap enough that I don’t feel the need to baby it.

Philips Hue – Sal
At $199 Hue isn’t cheap, but this LED lighting kit is the best product on the market if you want customizable, app-controlled lighting. Since its release a year ago there are more bulb types, 3rd party apps, IFTTT recipes, and accessories lights (like the Lightstrip) that are making the Hue system even better.
Final Cut by Steven Bach – Sal
I’m not a big cinema guy, but I love this book about Heaven’s Gate, one of Hollywood’s all-time failures. This is the story of how the movie came to be and how it singlehandedly sunk United Artists. Whether you care about the movie or not, it’s fascinating look at how films are (or at least were) made.

Weber One Touch Gold grill (22.5-inch) – Sal
I don’t think there is a single thing purchase I made in 2013 that gave me more joy than this grill. I wanted to do some backyard barbecuing (you know, slow-cooking) and I did a lot of research before picking up the classic Weber OTG. It was absolutely the right choice. It’s great for grilling but with some slight modification to my setup — we’re talking some foil and a drip tray filled with water — I’ve tackled pork butts, ribs, and briskets.
Rogue Legacy – Sal
Rogue Legacy was my favorite game of 2013. It’s a platformer with near-perfect controls and a near-perfect level of difficulty with RPG elements and classic Rogue-like game mechanisms. If all that makes no sense to you, that’s even more of a reason to give this game a shot.
La Crosse BC-700 battery charger*- Sal
Everyone uses less AA batteries than they used to, but they are still extremely handy to have around. When I moved over entirely to rechargeables a few years ago I decided it was time to get a good battery charger as well. This La Crosse has served me well and it’s a great tool to have around, especially alongside a few packets of Enloops.
Desktop Dungeons – Sal
I pre-ordered Desktop Dungeons in June 2011 when the game was in its pre-alpha stage. Since then it got way worse, and then way better.Today it’s an excellent turn-based strategy game where luck plays almost no role and it’s entirely on you and your wits to unlock each puzzle-like map. It’s easy at first but gets devilishly hard as you get deeper into the game.
Taza chocolate – Sal
I enjoy a good piece of chocolate as much as the next guy, and Taza is my favorite. I’ve spent all sorts of money on handmade, San Francisco-based, artisanal (etc.) chocolates but I’ve yet to have anything that beats Taza’s dark chocolates. I’d recommend the 80 and 87% varieties and that you steer clear of the flavored stuff.
Clever coffee dripper – Sal
This is the best way to make coffee at home. It cleverly (get it?) combines French press immersive brewing with drip brewing in a way that’s practically foolproof. A lot of people will tell you to go Aeropress, but the Clever is more consistent and more reliable.
Lunchbots stainless steel lunch container – Sal
Anyone that goes to an office every day knows how expensive it is to buy lunch. Eventually you’ll figure out that it’s cheaper (and probably healthier) to just bring your food. Don’t brown bag it — you’re a grown up — get an awesome lunch box.
Captains of Crush hand gripper – Sal
Grip strength is important for all sorts of things. There’s no better way to improve that than with a tool like this one. It comes in all sorts of pressure levels, to there is a Captain Crush for everyone.
Jennings CJ4000 digital scale – Sal
There is no almost no tool in my kitchen that gets used more then this scale. I use it for making coffee and cooking, while people who aren’t me use it for baking. This scale is accurate, reliable, and super easy to use.
The Pen Project – Matthew
An almost indestructible pen than screws together to easily fit in a
pocket, heavy enough so you’ll always know it’s there.
Clipper Fair Trade organic English breakfast tea -*Matthew
As a Brit, tea is an important thrice daily drink and I have found no*better brew than this one. Tasty at any time of the day.
Boardwalk Empire (Seasons 1-3) -*Matthew
Of all the series currently running, none comes close to Boardwalk Empire.*It is so well made, makes great use of technology even though you can never*see it being used, and the story has remained solid across all three*seasons. Roll on season 4!
Bosch*RS7 reciprocating saw -*Matthew
I picked up one of these earlier this year for cutting up a few trees to*use as fire wood. But it has turned into a super useful gadget that*replaces a hand saw in just about every situation. You can vary the speed,*it has multiple blades for cutting through wood, metal, and plastic, and*turns sawing from a energy sapping exercise into a task akin to slicing*through butter.

GameMaker Studio -*Matthew
There has been a big push over the last couple of years to get people*making games. And while Unity seems to be the software pushed most often, I*prefer an alternative called GameMaker Studio. Make the game once, ship it*on iOS, Android, Windows, Mac,*HTML5, and even browsers. If you want to try*your hand at game making, there’s no better package.

Sennheiser HD-280 Pro headphones -*Matthew
Working from home I don’t wear headphones too often, but when I do I need*them to block out the world and remain comfortable for hours. The HD-280*Pros fit that bill. They are closed back so your ears can get a little*warm, but that actually turns out to be a bonus in the colder months.
Supra Wrap Up – James
If you’re in the market for some sneakers that can double as either semi-dressy shoes or cool sneakers, the Supra Wrap Ups are a great choice. The light brown colorway is ideal, as the shoes can replace your standard desert boots, but at the moment, the Supra website appears to be out of stock. The black ones are still available, but even though they’re nice, you should really head to other outlets, like eBay, to snag the brown ones. Make sure you look for the Wrap Ups, as the regular Wraps are low tops and aren’t very distinguished.
Story War – James
Story War was the best new game at PAX East 2013, by far. It’s like Cards Against Humanity, except you don’t get tired of all the jokes, because there aren’t any set jokes; you make them up each time. Players throw down cards with setting, character, and flavor text, and have to make up an evolving story of why their character wins, which is determined by a judge. The game is really fun, but it comes with a caveat: you need to play with people who can create an amusing story on the spot and think on their feet.
The Last of Us – James
One of the finest video games made to date, developed by Naughty Dog, creator of the*Uncharted series.*TLOU features the experiences of Joel and Ellie as they travel across a post-apocalyptic America that crumbled due to a fungal outbreak that affected humans, effectively creating fungus zombies. The game doesn’t focus on the zombies, and is much more about the character development between Joel and Ellie. The game doesn’t feature any of the cliche twists you’d expect, and perhaps the first video game that has been discussed as being literature.
Amazon Prime – Ryan
Apparently you can give Amazon Prime as a gift now, so give that to everyone. Free 2-day shipping, free books, and tons of streaming content is a deal at $79.
USB 3.0 flash drive – Ryan
Almost any USB 3.0 thumbdrive, because who doesn’t need to haul around files sometimes? And USB 3.0 is finally included on most computers. You can get 32GB drives for $20-30
Nexus 7 (2013) – Ryan
The Nexus 7 (16GB) was just dropped to $219 on Amazon and $199 from Best Buy. Really good value for a small tablet with an amazing screen and the newest version of Android. A fun way to get into Android with no cell contract to worry about.
Exomount 2 phone holder – Ryan
Exomount 2 phone holder. These car docks can hold onto any vaguely smooth surface with crazy strength (car dashboard, walls, etc). The clip design also holds almost any size phone very securely.
Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus charging kit – Lee
There are a lot of solar charging kits out there, but the Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus packs all the features I was looking for. The panels are compact yet still produce 7 watts to charge your gadgets, and Goal Zero throws in four AA batteries for good measure.
TF2 action figures – Lee
Whether your loyalties lie with Team Red or Team Blue, these epic action figures from Valve are a great way to show your love for TF2. The Heavy, Soldier, Pyro, and Demoman are available, some in blue and some in red. If you want to save a few bucks plushies are available as well, but you really can’t be the real deal action figures.
Sonic Screwdriver universal remote (with gesture support!) – Lee
Even if it didn’t look like the Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver this gesture-capable universal remote would be pretty darn cool. But it does, and that means you’ll feel a little like a Time Lord even if all you can do is pause, fast forward, or rewind video.
Betabrand dress sweatpants – Lee
Just because you have to dress up for work doesn’t mean you have to leave your amazingly comfy sweat pants at home. Betabrand figured out how to tailor sweats so they look almost as dressy as a pair of slacks. Pricey? Maybe, but can you really put a price on the glee you’ll feel wearing sweat pants to a board meeting?
Tylt Energi backpack – Russell
This is a fantastically durable backpack with TARDIS-like storage capabilities and a 10,500mAh battery built in that can charge three USB devices simultaneously. The battery and the cables are all removable and configurable based on your needs, and it’s a very comfortable backpack.
Mighty Wallet – Russell
Tyvek-based Might Wallets are paper thin but mostly fireproof and nearly indestructible. They also come in a massive variety of super geeky designs, from circuit boards to blueprints of the Enterprise.
Boise NFC enabled Bluetooth receiver – Russell
A cheap and easy one-tap solution to bring bluetooth to any stereo. The added NFC component works with nearly every Android phone and supports multiple devices paired simultaneously.
And that’s it for our 2013 gift guide! Hope everyone has a happy, healthy holiday season!